NECROPHAGIA has returned in 2005 to give us their fourth bloody offering of quality Death Metal. Like the Black Plague sweeping through the land, half of those listening will contract the deadly virus and fall prey to this audio epidemic. The harvest moon has climbed the sky and riffs are the crop at hand. Death Metal has not been nearly this fun or satisfying in a long time.
I have never been previously blessed with experiencing the debauchery that is NECROPHAGIA and “Harvest Ritual (Volume 1)” was quite a virgin journey. The style at hand is the relatively typical mid-paced Death Metal played by a slew of diminished bands still releasing CDs in copious amounts to this day. What separates Killjoy and Co. from the rest of the bunch is that which is lacking from most other projects and that which is essential to a satisfying Metal album in general; riffs, glorious riffs. Throw on “Unearthed” or “Return To Texas” and grab a fresh diaper because you will shit yourself.
The beauty of the riffs does not attempt to obscure itself in technicality nor furious shredding but merely in catchy bludgeoning brutality. Frediablo and Fug spit forth hideous slicing riffs which put others to shame and outright display why this band has been around for so goddamn long. The guitars themselves also bear the mark of a great production job. The album is contemporary without sounding overtly modern, smooth yet not over-polished. It bears a certain old-school sound while still utilizing modern production techniques to achieve a rather full and rough guitar tone which is able to liquefy organs.
If the riffs are the meat, then the drums, keyboards and bass are the bread holding this delicacy together. The bass is audible at times but does suffer from being mixed somewhat poorly and buried with the rhythm guitar which is a standard Metal pitfall of course. Titta Tani’s drumming is solid as hell and provides an excellent backdrop for the rhythm while the riffs slay your ass in the fore. The only downfall is that the skin-work is inconsequential and unnoticeable until a slick double-bass line or fill erupts which sends shivers of conjoined ecstasy and pain down your spine. The keyboard work on the other hand is readily noticeable and in your face. No, don’t shit yourself just yet (you need to save the bowel movement for when you purchase the CD and pop it in anyway) as the keyboard work on here is rather unique and awkward but in a beautiful sort of way. Mirai Kawashima serves little purpose during the chorus structures or verses themselves, merely performing eerie interludes and bridges in between riff structures in order to evoke a mystical and terrifying element which clings to the listener. At first it seems somewhat odd as this heavy as hell riff is blistering the airwaves only to give way to this Twilight Zone inspired melody. After one grows accustomed to this aspect however, it seems to fit rather well and becomes a staple of the NECROPHAGIA sound.
The last element of this band’s sophisticated yet grotesque sound is Killjoy himself spewing forth hideous propaganda of death and destruction. Most Death Metal albums contain blasé vocals which are somewhat atypical and uninspired and either A) detract from the guitars and riffage or B) take backseat to the compositions and adds only a slight touch to the band’s sound. NECROPHAGIA has hammered out a third possibility in that the vocals are utilized as another instrument in which the vocal patterns displayed are as utterly catchy as the riffs they are spat over. Hearing Killjoy yelling the chorus to “Cadavera X” or “London (13 Demon Street)” compels one giving even a casual listen to join in on the mayhem and give their best vocal performance since yelling along to “Beat It” on their car radio with the windows rolled down (Yeah, I’m sure you never did that).
“Harvest Ritual (Volume 1)” slays and I have no doubt in my mind the second installment will be no weaker. These guys not only have a sick logo, but are able to shred behind their chosen instruments as well and certainly warrant a listen if you are even in the mood for a quick Death Metal fix. NECROPHAGIA may not be as sophisticated as BEHEMOTH or as original as ARGHOSLENT, but they are able to prove that average Death Metal can transcend that epithet and become so much more. Chalk up one new fan for these Ohio shredders. (Online September 22, 2005)